GET A ROOM!

YA ’S DAZ­ZLING EX­HI­BI­TION REIMAG­INES THE HIR­SH­HORN MU­SEUM AS A FAN­TAS­TIC SE­RIES OF IM­MER­SIVE SPACES.

Capitol File - - CONTENTS - BY KRISTON CAPPS

Yayoi Kusama’s daz­zling ex­hi­bi­tion reimag­ines the Hir­sh­horn Mu­seum as a fan­tas­tic se­ries of im­mer­sive spaces.

Yayoi Kusama de­buted the first of her mir­ror rooms in 1965, decades be­fore the world was ready for them. Her in­stal­la­tion art—be­yond bizarre when it first sur­faced, but mas­sively in­flu­en­tial to­day—is the sub­ject of a sur­vey at the Hir­sh­horn Mu­seum and Sculp­ture Gar­den. “Yayoi Kusama: In­fin­ity Mir­rors,” which opens on Fe­bru­ary 23, show­cases the Ja­panese artist’s ever-evolv­ing, im­mer­sive sculp­tural prac­tice. It’s the first mu­seum sur­vey to fo­cus specif­i­cally on her en­vi­ron­ments, from In­fin­ity Mir­ror Room—Phalli’s Field (a mir­ror-clad room, first shown in 1965, that is stuffed with plush, polka-dot­ted phal­luses) to The Oblit­er­a­tion Room (an on­go­ing pro­ject since 2002 in which vis­i­tors “oblit­er­ate” an all-white dwelling with col­or­ful dot stick­ers).

Kusama is a fore­run­ner of the artis­tic prac­tices that have come to de­fine the Hir­sh­horn’s re­cent pro­gram­ming—namely, spec­ta­cle. Doug Aitken’s “SONG1” (2012), in which the artist pro­jected a 360-de­gree video onto the façade of the cylin­dri­cal mu­seum build­ing, is just one re­cent piece that owes a debt to Kusama. She and her con­tem­po­raries, among them Yoko Ono and Carolee

Sch­nee­mann, chal­lenged and ex­panded the pos­si­bil­i­ties of art prac­tices in the 1960s.

Kusama in par­tic­u­lar set­tled on a prac­tice that em­pha­sized space and phys­i­cal­ity. Space, a new em­pha­sis at the mu­seum, has al­ways been at the core of Kusama’s work, al­though she has not al­ways re­ceived credit for it.

“She was a provo­ca­teur,” says Mika Yoshi­take, as­so­ciate cu­ra­tor at the Hir­sh­horn, who as­sem­bled the show. “There have been many artists to use mir­rors or mir­ror rooms. It speaks to how as a woman and also as an Asian artist liv­ing in New York at the time, it was very tough. Lucas Sa­ma­ras got pages and pages in Art­fo­rum, lots of fea­tures about his mir­ror room con­tem­po­ra­ne­ously, while Kusama got just a few lines men­tioned in a very mi­nor art news­pa­per.”

“In­fin­ity Mir­rors” in­cludes six dif­fer­ent im­mer­sive in­stal­la­tions, which will ap­pear as cubes in­side the mu­seum. The Hir­sh­horn will use timed tick­ets to con­trol traf­fic flow for an ex­hibit that is bound to be a fan fa­vorite. View­ers will have less than a minute to en­ter into works like Fire­flies on the Wa­ter (2002), a dark­ened mir­ror room filled with what seem to be a galaxy’s worth of twin­kling lights. That should be enough time for most view­ers to snap the per­fect ’gram—her work is ubiq­ui­tous on so­cial me­dia, no one leaves one of her mir­ror rooms with­out snap­ping a selfie—and for some to be trans­ported some­where else.

“That ex­pe­ri­ence is very much ‘your body is an atom— dis­persed,’” Yoshi­take says. “You’re part of the phys­i­cal space, but in a dif­fer­ent way, as if you’re part of the cos­mo­log­i­cal at­mos­phere.” Fe­bru­ary 23 to May 14, In­de­pen­dence Ave. at Sev­enth St. SW, 202-633-4674; hir­sh­horn.si.edu

GET A ROOM!

Yayoi Kusama’s Af­ter­math of Oblit­er­a­tion of Eter­nity is just one of the artist’s spec­tac­u­lar pieces trans­form­ing the Hir­sh­horn Mu­seum.

Art all over: The Hir­sh­horn Mu­seum’s new ex­hi­bi­tion kicks off the first ma­jor North Amer­i­can tour of Yayoi Kusama’s work in nearly two decades. SHOWN: With The Oblit­er­a­tion Room (2002 to present), Kusama al­lows mu­se­um­go­ers to cover a white space with dot stick­ers.

Dark mat­ter: Part of Kusama’s ap­peal stems from her in­sis­tence on vis­ual el­e­ments (such as dots, pump­kins, and phal­luses) that are whim­si­cal yet sin­is­ter, and in­fused with an in­tox­i­cat­ing spirit of dark com­edy. ƫƢƠơƭ ƚƧƝ ƛƞƥƨư: The artist is shown in 1965 in the In­fin­ity Mir­ror Room— Phalli’s Field and in 2016 with more re­cent work.

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